Responsible Social Media

In writing for TBA, I use social media a bit more publicly than I really ever thought I would. This week, for everyone with a Facebook page or a Skype account or a Mac with iChat, the affect and effects of abusing social media came sharply in focus with death of 18 year old Tyler Clementi, a student at Rutgers and a talented musician, who you can read about here.  Tyler's roommate and another student thought it would be funny and an American Pie-esque joke to live broadcast Tyler in an intimate moment with someone else. Someone else who also happened to be male.

Maybe his roommate thought this was the greatest prank ever. Maybe some people tuned into the web broadcast and laughed and turned it off after a few seconds. Maybe everyone was suppose to think this was what college kids do when they're 18 and off at school and meeting new people and trying to figure out what it's like to live with someone you've never met before and may be completely different from.

But Tyler didn't think it was funny. Tyler jumped off the George Washington Bridge and ended his life.

To say that Tyler's story is simply a case of an invasion of privacy is drastically oversimplifying it. I'm not suggesting that the two students involved ever thought that their incredibly poor judgment would lead to Tyler's suicide. But to think that a Twitter page and a webcam live-feed give you license to expose so much of another person, is absolutely astonishing. To not use this horribly sad and incredibly tragic moment as a means of talking about how we can responsibly use social media, would compound the tragedy even more.

So, please, start the conversation. In your home, at your place of worship, at PTA meetings, over the water cooler at work, on your Facebook page, or even here in the comments. It's time to say enough: Enough bullying, either in schools or online. Enough thinking that pranks like this will only get a few laughs and not something more tragic. Enough losing basic respect towards another person.

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